Mentoring

My Musings on Mentoring

A couple young friends of mine Joaquin Beltran and Chris Schlaufman, started this new web community called Mentorvine--an online community where "aspiring individuals connect with experienced professionals" to advance careers. For those of you having trouble following along I have been cast as the "experienced professional".  :)

My stream of consciousness on mentoring:

Thanks for reading. John


The Women Who Have Mentored and Inspired Me

Last week I was honored to be the keynoter for the Professional Mentoring Luncheon for Women in Cable Telecommunications. Here's an excerpt from my speech: 

My career and success since my early days in cable have been disproportionately influenced by women. Women who taught me what was important and how to understand my own potential. Women who were role models for me. Women who helped an average guy succeed!

I think of my wife’s mother Youngsook whose family escaped North Korea. She became a Korean War bride and entered the US not really speaking any English. She went on to earn her BA, MA and PhD in Anthropology and wrote a textbook that is still used in colleges today. Her story is another reflection of the American dream. Her wit, intelligence, and love for life are legendary. I never met her before her untimely death at the age of 49, but her memory mentors me.

Youngsook
Youngsook circa 1957

My mother spent 4 years in the internment camps during WW2, then became an American mom of the 50’s confined to the home in a male dominated world of limited choices. At the age of 49, she decided to take a painting class. Last year she was on the cover story of American Artist Magazine. Her lessons about how to use the right side of my brain, the importance of community service and that it is never too late to change, mentors me everyday. 

After I left the cable world my boss at the UCLA Alumni Association was Bea Mandel who became the first female alumni regent of the University of California in 125 years. Bea was a tough no-nonsense leader who taught me about focus and results. After I left UCLA, I was involved in a pioneering effort to develop online higher education. I ended up reporting to Paula Singer when my little venture got merged into Sylvan Learning Systems. Since 2003 I have been a member of the Walden University Board which she chairs. Paula teaches me how to blend an uncompromising standard of ethics and extraordinary growth with candor and charm. When I led Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Los Angeles, I met hundreds of mothers who wanted a mentor for their daughter or son. And there is nothing like the commitment and desire in the eyes of a mother who wants a better life for her children. My work was re-energized each and every time I looked into those eyes. 5 years later I met Neeru Khosla and learned about CK12 and her vision for free virtual standards based textbooks.  I was treated to her passion that knew no boundaries and always focused on getting to the goal no matter how impossible it may seem. From there I was hired by Antonia Hernandez for my current job. Antonia is a true leader who provides clear direction and gets out of your way. She employs a wonderful concoction of passion, charm, and influence to make things happen. She teaches me everyday to appreciate and respect the purpose of our work.

Lastly my wife  Sarah, and my daughters Jenna and Malia have have taught me to be more patient, loving and how to lead with my heart. When you are a minority in your own family you either adapt or you suffer!

I have learned and continue to learn the most important life and leadership lessons from women who have mentored me.

We are all role models. We mentor people who watch us. All of you are helping other women or other men by the example we set, by revealing our possibilities. 

What is our role and our obligation to make a difference, to help others, to become the best we can be? I submit to you that we each need to do more.

Deepak Chopra and Dave Ramsey--Why do we take jobs we don’t want, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.

We have to move from transactional to transformational lives.

We have to move from lives of busyness to the business of our lives.

We have to move from lives of indifference to making a difference.

 Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

For the afflictions are great and we are far too comfortable.

We should be more uncomfortable.

In all my experiences I have learned that mentoring is a lifestyle that engages others in a compassionate act of tough love to get to our truths

To awaken the possibilities in each other

To help each other make courageous decisions

To solve problems by putting the needs of others first

To answer the question What do we want? Really? 

Choices: The Path less traveled, The Path of least resistance, or The Path with your heart?

 “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

I meet a lot of people that say they are so busy that they just want stability. They want things not to change. They want to keep what they have. They deceive themselves. No one who is ambitious and wants a better life for themselves wants stability. No parent who loves their kids wants things to stay the same. Nobody who is alive, who is conscious of the needs in our community, of the inequities in our society wants things to stay the same.

"Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained." Madame Marie Curie

Great mentoring is getting to our truths, to our passions-- to our true selves.

Mentoring is not shoulding on each other.

 Three Mentoring Goals for Your Work Together

 First: It is not about me it is about WE. We can’t do it alone. We need to help each other, understand one another. Get out of our bubbles of commonality and diversify our life experiences. We have to embrace our common destiny. That our hopes and dreams all linked, connected, networked together. We have to get beyond me and strengthen the WE.

 Second: Align our lives with our passions. What do we really want? What inspires us? How do we awaken the spirit within each of us that we have a lot more to give? Pablo Casals Takes courage to listen to your goodness and act on it. Locked inside each of us is our truths—like a sculpture locked inside the granite. It takes a hammer and chisel to sculpt. Freeing our passions from the stone of complacency is hard work.

 Third: Lead by example. We have to mentor and help one another. Each of us is a role model whether we like it or not. People look to us as an example of what to do and how to live. They need to see what is possible. What example are we setting? Who are we mentoring? What difference are we making? We each have to live our legacy. Our legacy is the example we set. That is the legacy we leave.

 This is our time. There is no other time.

The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now. James Baldwin

Right now. Lean in, but stand up, stand for something, otherwise we fall, we fall for anything.

We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

Thank you for asking me to share my thoughts.

Thank you for being here and being you.

Thank you for what you will do for each other.

Thank you for not giving up on yourself, on your dreams and the dreams of others.

We need your dreams.

Thanks for reading. John


Meaning of Mentoring

In honor of National Mentoring Month, we need to celebrate, advocate, and encourage mentoring. Each of us has the power to mentor. Regardless of age and stage--you have what it takes to help others. Mentoring is not the province of the "experts", the "elderly", the "successful" or the "important". We have established this on these pages many times. The keys to effective mentoring is showing up and doling out the truth.  Everyone-needs-a-mentor

More than anything, mentoring is about the meaning. The meaning of their lives. It is about the meaning of their work. It is about the meaning of their relationships. It is about the why not the what. It is focused on getting people to be true to their purpose. 

It is always Meaning over Money.  Robin Johnson  

Don't worry about your stuff. Worry about making meaning.  Seth Godin

Some people confuse mentoring with giving advice, outlining steps, or god forbid, helping people develop a plan.

Mentoring is like the best conversations that leads to the best relationships. Mentoring is about honest exchanges that help the mentee hear themselves. Help them hear their own heart. 

Great mentoring is the process of allowing the mentee to be heard and surrendering to their soul. Mentoring is giving other permission to do this. 

This requires holding one another accountable for what we say and do---or don't do. 

You can't hold back and just be polite when you are mentoring. Not telling you to hurt people's feelings but letting people lie to themselves, live a deception, and/or say and do things that they think sound/look good, is a crime.

Not enough time to be wasted on a life without meaning. 

Holding back is close to stealing.   Neil Young

Mentoring is not being supportive--it is about mining for meaning.

Mentoring is not encouragement--it is about the pursuit of purpose.

Mentoring is not comfortable--it is about the uncomfortable

Mentoring is not about responsiveness--it is about overcoming resistance

Mentoring is not necessarily a program but a way of life

Mentoring is the greatest reality show ever--starring the mentee.

Everyone is a role mdel and indirectly mentors others through their actions. Other people are watching you and they learn by what you do more than what you say. 

And in the end, every mentor gets more than any mentee. Great mentoring forces both mentor and mentee to walk the talk. To align themselves to their meaning. You can not help others without helping yourself.

Adopt the lifestyle of mentoring by helping others to SWiVEL---Strengthen What I Value Enjoy and Love!

Who will you mentor next? This month? And next?

Thanks for reading. John


Find Mentoring not a Mentor

May be the number one question I am asked: "How do I find a mentor?"  Usually this question is shrouded in mythology, poor assumptions, and a desire for a quick fix. Of all things, mentoring is not a fast solution to your challenges. There is this idea that "the right person" will have the answers to your career and life questions. That this guru will provide a lighted path to your salvation and success.  

Great mentoring can give you insight into who you are and what you want. Great mentoring can clarify your choices and your strategies to build a more fulfilling and rewarding career and life. 

Learning, acquiring knowledge and gaining insight have changed.

Old School

New School

I learn most from those with more experience

 

I learn from everyone around me

 

Excellence is defined by what I know

 

Excellence is defined by my strengths and what I do

 

I learn from books and in classrooms

I learn continuously and experientially in small real time bites

Just as a single book, class, website will not answer all of your questions, neither can a single person. Most people who ask me this question have created this super person in their minds--a guru available 24/7 who knows it all and can answer your questions. Like the "perfect" boyfriend/girlfriend, the perfect job and unicorns -- they don't exist. I know you get this, but each of us holds out a little hope that such a person is out there. And in the end it prevents us from being mentored. GURU1

Mentoring is never just getting answers. We need multiple mentoring sources. They are not all going to be "older and wiser". They are not all going to be in your industry or field. They share your perspective, your interests and they tell you the truth. The people who you know or who you meet who are authentic and with whom YOU are authentic. It is where vulnerability and openness govern the exchange. Networking is a robust give and take. It is a dance of authenticity and vulnerability. 

Perfection is always the enemy of the good.

One of the most amusing things is when I spend high quality time with someone who seeks my advice. I may have even purchased them a meal, taken time from my family..... I answer their questions, I provide real feedback and try to mentor them. I do this not because I am generous, I do it because I benefit from these interactions. I have acquired knowledge I want to and like to share. I always learn something new and it reinforces and reveals things that I need to practice. At the end of these sessions, more than half of the people ask me one of two questions. 

  • When can we meet again?
  • Will you be my mentor?

I just tried to mentor this person! They seem more interested in checking off a box on their to-do list.  GOT MENTOR. They are more interested in a mentor than the mentoring! Some even ask for a regular monthly session! 

Look, I totally understand why people search for and want a mentor. But take the advice that  resonates with you and do something! Fail with it. Succeed with it. Discover new stuff along the way. Then, talk to the source of the "mentoring" and ask for help to answer new questions. That's how a potential mentoring relationship is formed. 

Mentoring relationships are serious relationships. They don't develop in an instant. Very few can say "She was my mentor at first sight." ;) Mentoring like all relationships that matter evolve over time, where trust is built upon genuine efforts and the truth.

A couple of years ago, I met a parent volunteer at a school I was touring. She impressed me and inspired me with her energy and passion for her daughter's education. I asked her what she did and she told me she looking for work. I suggestsed we meet and I tried to plug her into my network. I told her to read my blog to answer any questions. The other night, I saw her at an event and I asked how she was doing. She is gainfully employed after a tough 6 month search. She was clearly happier and more confident. She cited my posts on resumes and interviewing as very helpful. She told me she would stay in touch. And I know we will. We have a mentoring relationship, but we will never call it that.

Mentoring is all around you. It is ubiquitous. Some of it you need to just breathe it in and reflect upon it. Some you need to seek. And out of that process a "mentor" may emerge. My point is when you get mentored in a moment or in a meeting--Take action. Use the mentoring, then get more mentoring. At the very least, refine your questions through experience. 

Mentoring is an iterative process that requires the application of a theory. It is your theory of change. Your plan for progress. Your pursuit of happiness. If you don't have a theory, then finding mentoring or a mentor will be a frustrating experience. 

It is always about the content. We seek answers not a single source. 

Don't get stuck looking for the perfect mentor or even an official mentor. Find great mentoring, but don't be surprised if you do not use the M word. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Mentor First: Pay it Forward

The most popular radio station in the world is WII-FM. WII-FM is shrill and repetitive. WII-FM is What's In It For Me. We have to  turn down the volume and listen to the real music of our lives--Your heart, your mind, and the people around you. Yes you have needs, but you still have much more to offer. We all want and need things but the best way to receive is to give. That's correct, your mom was right again! Same goes for mentoring.  Pay_it_forward_
Almost everyone I talk to wants to find a mentor, the "right" mentor, a "better" mentor. They crave advice and counsel to help them advance their lives. Most people expect this new improved and very special mentor to point them in the right direction and provide them with the answers. Those of us who mentor others know that's not what usually happens . Mentoring is a two-way conversation that helps one another discover the truth--the truth that lies within. So that's why everyone should be mentoring others as much as they seek mentoring. Once you put others before yourself. Once you practice what you preach. Once you teach, you understand the role of the student.  The world comes into focus as you are not waiting for a mentor but helping someone else. You take control again. You drive instead of waiting to be picked up. That's why I advocate a lifestyle of mentoring. It is not passive or dependent. It is pro-active and direct.
Choosing to mentor is to choose to help others, to engage others, thereby helping oneself.
 
So think first to mentor, then to be mentored.
 
Always give without an expectation. That is the cardinal rule of this lifestyle of mentoring and networking. And the returns to you will be plentiful.
  • A cousin seeks your advice
  • A friend's daughter wants to discuss college options
  • A long time colleague at work needs your help, but has never asked for it
  • One of your best friends is stuck in life
  • A former employee has a friend that wants to discuss careers

All of these are warm sources of need. Make the time to help, mentor and share your wisdom. 

No matter what stage you are in your life, there is another you can mentor. Someone you care about who could use your perspective. Someone you are going to help be accountable to themselves. Accountable to their own goals and dreams. A mentor is not the source of all knowledge, they have experience, perspective and the will to be candid.  Not just kind and encouraging. Not just helpful and sensitive. Not the type that winces and cringes on the  inside and smiles on the outside when we hear others say crazy things. Not phony nice. We need to be a bit more intolerant of the BS and the loose language that comes from people we care about. We need to help others rein in their weak plans and weaker efforts. Most of all we need to be truthmeisters.

My best mentors reflect me, my words, my goals like an HD mirror. They show me the good, the bad and the ugly that I emit. I get to see and hear myself like never before with much better clarity.
 
The mentor always gets the most. Because to mentor is to tell the truth and to tell the truth is to learn the truth. Mentoring is the hard work of listening and reflecting. It is not about answers. It is about understanding. And that's why it is the most rewarding.
 
Articulating advice and doling out the truth is not credible or relevant if you don't live by it. That's why the mentor always gains, because the act of advising another reinforces your values, your behaviors and your goodness. Mentoring is about vulnerability. Mentoring is not the coach who says "do what I say and not what I do." Mentoring gives the mentor  the courage to tell the truth and to open up and discuss how they are overcoming their weaknesses and foibles. And the mentee musters the courage to hear the truth, confront their own weaknesses and discover themselves.

Still doubt the mentor is rewarded more?
Recent research now shows that those that mentor achieves far greater benefits. Mentors make substantially more money, are more successful and the mentees are more likely to help others--mentoring creates more mentoring.
Mentors pay it forward.
 
A quick review of the benefits of mentoring: 
  1. You always get more--including pay and promotion!
  2. The mentee benefits
  3. The mentee helps others
  4. The world benefits from people more connected that help one another

Any questions? :)

Mentoring is not a service YOU provide--it is the human act of helping one another that advances YOUR life. 

Mentor first, then seek mentoring. Pay it forward and it will always come back to you.

Thanks for reading. John


Mentor, teacher, coach--What do I need?

This is an important question. There are times when you need teachers and coaches, but, In my opinion, you ALWAYS need a mentor or three. Mentors provide guidance and reality checks as you and your career/life develop. A mentor provides ongoing or momentary feedback that helps you focus on what is important to you and to your future success. The big difference is you don't go shopping for a mentor like you might for a coach or a teacher.

I teach, I coach and I also mentor. I am recruited to serve in the first two roles.  When I teach I bring a curriculum, an agenda, a set of questions and goals. When I coach I bring questions and I listen, but I drive the content and the subject matter. When I mentor, I listen, but for the most part I let the mentee drive. Mentoring can easily start in the teaching and/or coach environments. But lectures and transmitting knowledge and experience is a small part of the true mentoring relationship. Mentoring depends heavily on the growing set of questions and self awareness of both mentor and mentee. Awareness of the needs and possibilities of both. Some people never get this--that mentoring is a two-way street and consequently they rarely experience mentoring. They may be inspired or their view of themselves may be shifted by a conversation or an insight shared. But mentoring is a persistent process that is defined by the conversation built on trust and truth.Dialogue

Steve Blank, the well known entrepreneur, recently opined about this phenomenon--people's confusion about these roles and specifically how one acquires a mentor. He mentions how he has received requests to be a mentor while he is on the stage lecturing. Awkward! In this consumer society we think we can just pick a mentor, even ask a total stranger to be a mentor. Mentoring relationships usually emerge from relationships of trust. A chemistry is developed between the two parties over some period of time, it can be rather quick or lengthy, then a deeper sharing of thoughts, ideas, philosophies and advice generates the mentoring. Mentoring is not a commodity. You don't seek it, shop it, and then buy it.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Buddha

As Steve says, "mentoring is a dialogue", it is a higher order exchange, a frank conversation to help each other. Teaching tends to be a one-way flow of ideas. I know that all of these methods are not silos and that they blur into one another, that the lines that define them are at best fuzzy. But mentoring is different.

In fact, the Steve Blank posting was tweeted and shared by a former mentee of mine, who has in turn become my mentor. And the roles have continued to shift and change depending on the subject and the circumstance. This has been a process that has been repeated many times for me--Where the roles over time always reverse and vary. In a mentoring relationship we serve as reality checks, sources of ideas, and instant mentoring partners. When we need each other we are available for one another. Mentoring is a great dialogue, a give and take, a relationship of mutual benefit and trust.

The real question is are you mentorable? Are you ready to be mentored? Really? Are you prepared to be mentored ? A person who has not given any thought to their goals, has not done any soul searching, does not know their strengths, is not passionately curious about their future, is not a good candidate for mentoring. Some people I encounter, young and more mature, hope that the mentor they find will unlock the secret recipe of success and shine a bright and glorious light on their new path to fulfillment and success. I kid you not! They are starving for great wisdom, connections, and insights to be served up on a silver platter from the Iron Chef kitchen of the mentor. They expect to sit back and be served and consume the contents of the dishes and magically life will be delicious. Yikes! Waiter

Finding your mentor(s) is a process of meeting people, people you respect, admire, work with, volunteer with, and encounter in your pursuit of your life's work. People that are part of your journey of curiosity and discovery. If you are focused on becoming the best you can be, you will find a mentor and be mentored. Your quest for answers will push you towards people you know and new people you will meet. And some of those relationships will become mentoring dialogues that last months, years, and even a lifetime.

There has been great evidence that mentoring relationships with at-youth risk that last less than 1 year and even 2 years can damage the youth. Why? Because the process of developing trust and mutual understanding takes time, regardless of the great willingness of the participants, time, persistence, the process of showing up and caring, to strengthen a relationship to be able to have the meaningful dialogue. Until that relationship becomes a trusting one, little mentoring benefit occurs. Every mentoring relationship I have had has made me a better person, manager, parent, and leader. And every survey of mentors that I have read, every attempt to understand the benefits of mentoring show that the MENTOR gains more than the mentee. The target of the at-risk youth mentoring or corporate mentoring, always gets less than the mentor. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you would know if you mentored others. That's why I have been advocating adopting a lifestyle of mentoring, because the benefits are so overwhelmingly positive to the mentor and do a lot of good for the mentee. This is proof that the dialogue and the reciprocity are essential to mentoring.

Understand your greatness, pursue your passions, and become the best you can be and you will find mentoring. Seek great teachers, great coaches to hone your skills, your craft, and your questions, mentoring will find you.

Thanks for reading. John


Are you SWiVELicious----Can you SWiVEL?

SWiV·EL   (swvl): to link, pivot and move freely

Yes there is a new look and banner for my blog.  After more than 150 postings and about 30,0000 page views I decided my blog needed a makeover. SWiVELtime is a bit more succinct, plus the url SWiVELtime was available :). SWiVEL is a one page guide I developed many years ago to help people focus on their career paths and directions. Strengthen What I Value, Enjoy, and Love. Networking and mentoring are like everything else in life they are driven by goals--what we want. So to network and mentor well you have to SWiVEL. I try to SWiVEL everyday. (by the way, the "i" is lower case in SWiVEL because "I" should always be smaller than the things I want to achieve and the people and ideas I want to support)

Let me know what you think of the new look and give me feedback on my blog. I relish your requests and suggestions. Please click the feedback tab above and help me improve my blog. Thanks!

I have distributed thousands of these SWiVELs in my workshops, workplaces, and downloaded from my blog. It has evolved over the years. The SWiVEL is one page because I was told that "no one has time for anything longer." But as Coach Wooden said, "Anything that can be put into a nutshell belongs in one." So the SWiVEL is jammed with questions and thoughts that are not simple or easy to blurt out. To be done well the SWiVEL needs time and thought.Bad_boy_ent 

A combination of people asking me for resources and a meeting with Jon Cropper triggered the birth of the SWiVEL. Jon, who was the brains behind Nissan's cool ads and Shift campaigns 10 years ago, and I had several energetic and pyrotechnic conversations. Jon liked to use a dialectic process of basically starting an argument by asking a pointed question. He liked to induce verbal collisions and to see the new products, ideas, and thoughts which were generated. He was a creative guy who lived off of the creative process. I liked his energy and his non-stop thought process. I wanted to hang with him to see if I could learn something by enduring his sado-masochistic intellectual process. At one of our first one-on-one meetings, he asked in an antagonistic tone, "WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR KOBARA?!! WHO ARE YOU?!" I was momentarily stunned and then proceeded to recite some drivel about what my title was and my duties at work. He interrupted me, I AM CROPPER! The C stands for Creative, the R for Responsibility, the O for Original, the P Passion.....(I actually forget the rest:) WHAT DOES KOBARA STAND FOR?!! I feebly tried to make my Japanese surname into a compelling acronym as Jon stared me down across the restaurant table. The pressure was on! "K is for knowledge and O for opportunity and B is for.... " I threw up my hands and said, "I am not going to do this!" I started to discuss what was important to me and my life. We had a pretty deep conversation, especially between two people who did not know one another well. The conversation was provocative but not very satisfying.

Jon's question haunted me and I did not sleep well for a couple of days. WHO WAS I and WHAT DID I STAND FOR? Important questions that can not be answered by what I was doing or by tasks or projects. It lead me to write down my thoughts and questions. Out of this process the SWiVEL was created.

A month later, I saw Jon again. We met over lunch and before he literally sat down, I confronted him. "HEY CROPPER, WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR TODAY?! CAN YOU SWiVEL? CAN YOU?!! He meekly says "Swivel?" YEAH SWiVEL?, I retort. I pull my one page SWiVEL out of my back pocket and slam it down on the table like I had won a card game. Jon picks up the SWiVEL and starts to read. He looks up over the page with an evil smile---"I made you do this didn't I?"  He certainly inspired me.Caves

Like so many times when I have entered a scary cave of ideas led by new spelunkers I met through  networking, and emerged unharmed and more courageous. I like being mentored and confronted with reality. I gained from the process of not accepting the meaningless words we tend to use to describe ourselves, our lives, and our futures.

Jon Cropper moved to NY to pursue his career in marketing with his disruptive take no prisoners approach. There was little doubt he would be more successful. I lost touch with him and recently learned that he is CMO for Bad Boy entertainment, Sean Diddy Combs' multi-faceted entertainment firm. Perfect.

Try to SWiVEL. Complete the online version by clicking the SWiVEL tab above or Download SWIVEL_new_2011 for your writing pleasure.

The SWiVEL attempts to focus you on what's important to you right now and how those thoughts propel you ahead to greater success and helping others.

Nevertheless, it is always SWiVELtime!

Thanks for swiveling and reading. John


My Top 10 posts

Here is my holiday weekend special, my top ten posts. These are the "best" of the 160+ posts I have made based upon an arbitrary, random and indefensible combination of my preferences, other people's comments and what continues to be the set of questions I receive. They are listed in chronological order. Enjoy!

  1. You Don't Know Who You are Sitting Next to. Contains a couple of my favorite stories about meeting people by getting to know the people around you.
  2. Weathering the Storm and Defining the Moment. How to convert serious challenges into opportunities to define your life and your next chapter.
  3. Networking with Top Management and Other Intimidating Species.Connecting and conversing with your boss' boss and other senior executives can be tough, but it's much easier than you think.
  4. Finding the Right Mentor. You need a mentor but want to find someone who can help you adapt and improve. How do I find that person?
  5. Telling My Story. All of our lives take twists and turns, but if we can not make sense out of our past and what it means to our future, no one else will. What is your story?
  6. Resumes that Get Interviews. A lot of conflicting and confusing info on this topic. How does your resume have the best chance to stand out from the pile?
  7. Starting the Conversation. You want to meet people, but just initiating the conversation can be hard. How can I make that process more natural, comfortable, and effective?
  8. The Art of Shaking Hands. In addition to what you say, the way you greet people says the most about you. No second chance to make a first impression.
  9. Ambitious without Ambition. We all want more in our lives and in our careers, but what do we want? Focusing your ambitiousness has to a goal.
  10. Amazing Who You Know But Don't Know. All of think "new "people will be key to our next opportunity. We all know so many people, but we don't KNOW them. Starting with your existing network is easier and more productive.

I continue to try and address what's on your mind and what's preventing you from moving ahead in your career and life. Let me know what other topics you want me to address.

All of these posts and much of what I discuss involves the following principles. The more you connect with others, learn about them and their needs, the more you learn about yourself. If you mentor others then you will be mentored. Making your network diverse in its points of view will give you new perspectives. Push yourself to reconnect with people you care about, people you work with and people that you see everyday but never talk to. The world becomes smaller and much more manageable!

 Thannks for reading. John 


Triangle offense for life---Getting parallel lines to focus

How do you get parallel lines to cross? Of course they never will without intervention. I see people's paths as parallel lines. We go off on our direction, our path, our journey--focused on goals or not--moving with speed through time and space. Everyone moving on their separate trajectories, along side others who seek the very same things or very different things. Most of the time we do this thinking, planning and advancing by ourselves. We struggle with our destinies and finding meaning alone. Until something happens. A road block, an unexpected and usually unwanted event, you meet someone who changes your life, you have a kid, someone dies etc etc. These "interventions" force us to stop, make detours, and hopefully reflect. Parallel lines intersect.

Remember when you were a kid and you had a magnifying glass or some other convex lens and you held it so the light would flow through the glass? You could see the the light through this prism and then play with the lens to see if you could burn a hole in a piece of paper. You would conduct a mini experiment to find the focal length of the lens and voila, fire! You were getting the parallel lines of the light to triangulate and concentrate their energy in one spot. Magnifying

Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Jackson's long time assistant coach Tex Winter, used the triangle offense to win 9 NBA championships. Winter originally called it the "triple post offense" when he literally wrote the book on this strategy. Simply put a guard, a forward and the center form a triangle on one side of the court giving them many options to pass and score. A process to focus the strength of the team to be the most productive through a triangle.

For me, there are many lessons here. Focus and strength come from the intervention of others. They can be your lenses. Triangulation.Think about parents and a child. Consider a mentor and mentee and their mutual goals. Even your boss and you and your definitions of success. To reach the intended result, you have to find the focal point that gives everyone what they need. Parallel lines have to intersect to be focused to be stronger.

We can rely upon random intersections to focus us. Things happen and that becomes what is important. This can work, but it can leave out your true interests and visions for yourself. If you lead by pursuing what you want or who you are, then the intersections will inform your journey. And knowing what you want and who you are can be revealed by your pursuit of your interests and self improvement. Either way, you can not do it alone. You need help, support, guidance, and inspiration. You need interventions and lenses. Every opportunity, every goal, every relationship, and every connection has the potential to triangulate. Here's the key: It may not be your specific idea that gets focused. It may be a new idea, a hybrid, or a new point of view that is revealed. Be open to the new focus that comes from triangulation.

Triangulation verifies where you are. It is your career GPS. Getting input from 2 independent sources (the second opinion). Examining with your mentor, your strategy, your resume, your skillset by comparing it to your goals. When I was in Big Brothers Big Sisters, it was the mother, the big brother/sister parallel lines focused on the well-being and advancement of the at-risk kid.

How do you engage others to intervene, validate, strengthen your focus on your goals? And who do you engage? Many of these people you already know. They are just not engaged in your triangle strategy. Enlist and engage people to mentor you and focus you. And true to my philosophy, you have to think about the people in your life who need YOU to be a part of the triangle offense. To give them options, and insights, and direction. In life, we all have to be player/coaches.

We know parallel lines will intersect at crises. We come together when it is very late or too late. We find humanity and a spirit of cooperation after a tragedy. That triangle is predictable. How do we wake up ourselves and the people around us to snap us out out of the parallelism of our far too busy lives and connect now? How do we deepen our relationships with others before time has run out or we regret it?

Parallel lines never cross. Infinitely going in their own direction without a change or detour. I have learned that intersections are infinitely more rewarding, life affirming, and most important, helps define who I am and who I want to be. And with those intersections comes focus, strength and fulfillment.

Thanks for intersecting for a moment. John


Reflecting on our glass barriers and the road beyond

Starting my own process of reflecting on the last year--what I accomplished and what did not get done. Always like to start BEFORE the year end, to get a running head start on the new year. I have been blessed to encounter many new people and ideas during the last 12 months. These experiences have revealed many things to me about myself and the world around me. Most prominent to me is the amount of talent that is wasted or untapped. Talent that is obvious to everyone except the person with the talent. It is easiest to observe in children. You see their genius manifested in little things they do or say. Moments of brilliance, of enlightenment and joy that speak volumes about their essence and their possibilities. Then, over time layers of experience and nurture can suffocate the nature. External limits, preferences and rules unwittingly strangle that potential. As people grow up, this pattern continues and many enter the Federal Witness Relocation Program of assumed identities, where they adopt a life path that others give them. They become who others want them to be and accept somebody else's dream for themselves.This road rarely leads to a life fulfilled. Why does this happen over and over again? One less travelled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--   
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We have to break the cycle, the habits, and the routine of traveling a road that is too comfortable and too predictable.

But practicality and reality form glass walls between our current selves and parts of our true selves. We see them but can't get to them. We know these limitations are mostly self imposed. We have conditioned ourselves to keep these goals and visions of ourselves distant. Not big crazy dreams, but our own progress towards our health, education, family matters, financial fitness--things we can achieve, but don't. If you will, new year's resolutions unfulfilled.

There have been many experiments with fleas and pike fish that show that conditioning limits their abilities. Fleas trained in a glass container for flea circuses would only jump at 50% of their ability after the lid was removed. Fish separated from their prey by a glass wall would not pursue the prey even after the glass wall was removed. Conditioning and doubt are both self imposed "glass impediments" that limit us.

So the glass walls and barriers don't really exist, we imagine them.

And for myself, I have a much better fix on my potential. I see the talent that I have not nurtured and cultivated. Partly due to sloth, partly due to priorities, partly due to chances and choices. All glassy excuses of different names. I have gotten great snapshots of that potential through my community of support. They give me pieces of feedback and guidance that when assembled, reveal a work in progress puzzle picture of my potential. I am so grateful that I have people in my life that give me these perspectives and insights.

I can't settle for what is. I sincerely believe that we are never done developing ourselves. Never. That the road of self discovery and self improvement is infinite. When you understand this, it is neither frustrating or exasperating. However, you do realize how precious time is.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we develop our own talent and the talent of others? We must focus on our strengths. We surround ourselves with people who know us and stretch those strengths. We connect with people who can help us identify our hidden goals and visions. There is a tendency to surround our selves with clones, with similar people, with similar perspectives, abilities, means, and backgrounds. That is human nature. Likes do attract. But when you see, experience, and learn from more divers and talented people, you can see the potential you have more clearly. Am I bumping up against a glass ceiling or wall of advisors and/or colleagues who no longer force me to see what is possible and focus on the status quo? How will I change this? Broken glass

We articulate our goals, visions, and even dreams to others to help us achieve them. Secret goals never get accomplished.

Reconnect with your dreams for yourself, your family, your community, and beyond. Reinvigorate your understanding of your great talents and find ways to nurture them. Expand your network of peers and mentors to include people who will push you and pull you through the glass walls and ceilings to attain your dreams through your talents and strengths. And help others do the same.

The sounds of "breaking" glass ceilings and walls makes glorious music. Lot easier to break the glass with others than by trying to do it yourself.

As I continue to reflect, I have a lot of glass to break, roads to travel, people to help and dreams to fulfill. Next year is shaping up to be pretty interesting. :)

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Power of MOW

Vision without execution is hallucination. Thomas Edison

What do we see for ourselves down the road? What path and milestones do we expect? Not what we hope and wish for? Do we have a vision that we are working towards? Or just the vision?

If you don't know where you are going any path leads you there. Alice in Wonderland

Life is making your way down a dim path where unexpected detours and off ramps appear. Your choices are revealed by what you are doing, what matters to you, what you are thinking about.

In learning about my brother-in-law Andrew, I found out that the department he worked for at BNSF Railway was the MOW. I saw it on shirts and signs and I asked what it stood for. Maintenance of Way. Maybe it is just me but that is a very philosophical corporate department name! In fact, here is a website dedicated to it. Maintenance of Way IMG_0009_NEW_0002

You have to understand the MOW crew is a tough bunch of very physical and intimidating guys. So to hear that they work for the Maintenance of Way department, let's just say it surprised me!

The concept of keeping the tracks ahead clear and well maintained so it is safe to travel inspired me. We take these things for granted. MOW are the nameless faceless workers who make our lives easier, who quietly make our world safer, who without recognition, cleanup our messes and make sure our ability to do our work and advance our goals happens. We are so fortunate for the MOW crews!

But MOW is a powerful life guiding value, that we are all pathfinders. We take the beaten paths that others forged and maintained for us. We take new paths that we pursue because we follow our hearts and our calling.

We owe so many people from our past for making our lives and visions possible. People who sacrificed for the chances and choices we enjoy today. Our ancestors and our parents. We owe so many people from our present who guide us, mentor us, and show us the way.

Each of us has a great responsibility for the MOW. To see our opportunities and to choose our paths, so that others can pass here safely.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

We never take these roads for our sole selfish gain. We always have others in mind. Our families, our friends, our communities.

It is how we teach and mentor. It is the method of creating our legacies. We lead by example. That is MOW.

Looking ahead to envision our destinations or at least the track we are on is vital to momentum and progress. We must have the drive but we must also arrive. Otherwise our journey is an hallucination.

Maintenance of Way is about leading so that those that follow have a clear and known path. So that they do not repeat the mistakes and suffer the consequences. So we can advance.

We all have to maintain the way. As a parent, as an Asian Pacific American, as a manager, I have responsibilities to MOW.

Thanks Andrew for your MOW. For showing us how to live life to the fullest while being generous. For being yourself and being proud of it. For loving people around you unconditionally. Thanks for maintaining our way.

Thanks for reading. John


Think Out Loud and Connect!

I do this exercise with new college graduates or graduate students. They are the most confused, especially these days. I hold up my fist and point at it. And then I tell them, "I have your ideal job in my hand. It will engage your heart and your brain. It will pay you comfortably. Good dental benefits. Commute time is reasonable. It will help you grow and develop as a professional. Just tell me what it is and I will give it to you." 99% of the time they don't know what it is. That's not the point. The surprise is they don't even know what to say. They start mumbling things but almost always end with a joke. Because that's what what we all do when we don't know what to say. We try, I say try, to be funny. One of those slapstick defensive reflexes we verbalize to deflect the attention from our brain freeze. Similar to when we jokingly say, "No I meant to that," when we trip on ourselves or spill a drink. Brainmouth

It's really funny how our brain and our mouth are not connected. Accessing the grey hard drive, get the binary codes to come out of the speaker system and make sense is not always easy.

We harbor many ideas and thoughts in our minds about what we want and who we are. They rattle around between the neurons and the synapses. In the brain they seem comfortable and clever. In fact sometimes in our minds we are geniuses. However, when we utter some of these ideas with words and phrases they get garbled. We rely on our mouths to translate our elegant brainstorms into eloquence. Often it does not work and can be quite embarrassing. We forget the lips and the frontal lobes are not always directly linked.

I remember when I was talking to a very ambitious employee about her hobbies. It was a fun and light hearted, easy going conversation. I started thinking about an opportunity for her. It occurred to me that I did know what her ambitions were. So I asked somewhat abruptly, "By the way what do you want to do next?" She was horrified, froze and became inarticulate. She told me this was not fair and that questions like that could only be asked in a formal review session! I was not expecting THE answer. But to start a robust conversation about the options, pros and cons. To hear her thoughts, but I never did.

Pat head rub tummy Thinking and talking on our feet can be the equivalence of patting our heads and rubbing our stomachs simultaneously. Not easy. With practice it is always easier. With preparation it looks like it is second nature. Robin Williams' "ad libs" have been tested in private, honed in comedy clubs, and tweaked by his writers. It is the delivery that matters. But I am not suggesting you memorize anything, the best speaking is extemporaneous. Your preparation allows you to share thoughts that have been considered and certainly are not alien. 

The ability to think out loud is a lost art. When you don't know the answer, especially if it is personal, you have to demonstrate your thought process, display that you have considered the subject matter--such as your life's direction!--and honestly share a little of yourself. That would be refreshing. An authentic discussion of the challenges and issues the question or the dilemma conjures.

This is where mentoring comes in to save the day. When can you trot our your intimate thoughts? Where can you conduct your dress rehearsals and get feedback? And not be instantly criticized and judged. Mentors are the greatest sounding boards. They expect to talk to you about these raw and mal-formed concepts. Share your thoughts, questions, quandaries, and curiosities with your mentor. Expressing these thoughts as wishes, things you want for yourself is also very effective. Think out loud with your mentor, often and then listen for the feedback. Just the practice of converting your neural sparks into words will do wonders.

Doing this in isolation, by yourself, never works as well.

When people ask you things all of the time? When you know people will ask you the same questions over and over. Or questions that you ask yourself repeatedly. There is no excuse for not having answers or well-formed thoughts about your quest for answers.

In my intermittent posts on questions, I urge the readers to work on their answers. Literally verbalize them to get them to sound like YOU. To convey what you are thinking. Like an artist who dreams up new images, getting it exactly right the first time is rare. It takes a series of trials and errors to have the canvas look the way you imagined.

Last week, I asked a grad student what type of job and career he really wanted after graduation. After an awkward pause he replied, "Nothing but happiness." He looked at the ceiling and then at his shoes and then smiled impishly. He knew he was being funny, wasn't he? Just wanted him to think out loud with me and maybe we could work together on refining those thoughts and actually discover a path to his happiness.

Thanks for reading. John 


Don't refer unqualified candidates. Don't pass the trash!

The power and influence of networking trades on your reputation--your brand. If you do not manage your brand by making sure that nothing undermines it, then you are a very poor personal brand manager.

If you have any semblance of a network, then you are being asked to help friends and relatives with their job searches or even more likely, for their friends or relatives. Always respond to assist and be helpful as I  have advised repeatedly here. The benefits you derive often exceed any you dispense.

However the decision to refer or hand-off your friend, relative or others is one that you have to examine carefully and thoroughly. Just as you stand to benefit from the experience you also can also damage your brand.

Referring job candidates that you know are not qualified, prepared, or even good is simply stupid for all concerned.

In Waiting for Superman, the award winning documentary on the state of education in America, it characterizes the process of exporting or exchanging horrible teachers between districts as either "passing the trash" or conducting "the dance of the lemons". Principals and Superintendents who can not fire really bad teachers because of tenure, opt to shipping these teachers to other districts in exchange for their bad teachers. It is an obscene process that reflects how little the kids/students matter. Pasing the trash

When anyone refers, forwards via e-mail, a candidate they do not know, or worse, a candidate they know is weak--they are passing the trash. Imagine what this does to a brand, especially if they are a repeat offender at referring bad candidates.

I get dozens of referrals a month for specific jobs. And there is a dramatic increase in this transactional, thoughtless, process of referring candidates bereft of quality. Sometimes it is plain embarrassing. But always a waste of time. I have to decline the candidate AND explain to the referrer that the person is not even close to the specs.

People just want to get the task of helping people off their plate and on to someone elses. This is a cardinal sin of networking and mentoring.

Why mentoring you ask? Because the referrer needs to take the time and effort to help the candidate reflect on their goals, on their resume, on their process. This is where mentoring can be the most valuable. Stopping someone from a poorly defined job search and adding value to their journey is the purpose of mentoring. These moments of mentoring can be super powerful. No one is served if you just robotically agree to "forward" their resume. And you become known as a trash passer!

Passing the trash is a new form of spam. Puts me in the position to be the bad guy. because not only do I swiftly decline these candidates, I tell them and/or their referrers why. In a number of cases I de-brief the candidate on their missing qualifications, typos on their resume, career goals and the lack of fit. But somebody has to push back and stop the stream of trash. I feel sorry for the candidates because they are pretty much riding the process out. However, they get damaged in this process too. They are seen as not having their act together and when ruled unqualified, that hurts them psychicly and in the marketplace.

Stop before you refer someone. And don't refer anyone you think has dodgy or sketchy qualifications. No one wins and almost everyone loses, especially you.

Thanks for reading. John


The Passing of a Coach, Mentor and Legend

After an extraordinary life of 99 1/2 years, Coach John R. Wooden died. His legacy is so vast and well documented, I will not spend time here recounting it. If you are not familiar with Coach Wooden please read about him, learn his pyramid of success, buy his books, and learn from his life!Jr wooden

I was fortunate to know the Coach. I was not close to him, but I had many encounters and chances to hear him speak and several lengthy private sessions with him. My kids met him. My wife Sarah and I had an intimate dinner with him several years ago. I have considered him a mentor for many years.

The guidance he provided through his teachings and lessons have profoundly impacted my life. I can honestly say that I am a better leader, father, husband, and person because of the Coach. I am so grateful for his life and for his mentoring.

I want to share with you just a small sampling of the lessons that guide me everyday.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Doing your homework. Practicing to hone your abilities. Anticipating challenges. Thinking about what you are going to do before you do it. Thinking about what you are going to say before you say it.

Be quick but don't hurry.

Keep moving. Take action. Make decisions. Speed is a sign of progress. But don't rush. Don't miss what is around you and appreciate the moment.

Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

Don't read or get caught up in your own press statements and achievements. Don't become satisfied with your past success. Find your limits. Push yourself to maximize the talent and ability you possess. Watch and learn from your "game films." Be obsessive about how you can improve.

Make no excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them.

Reasons why we are not making progress in our lives are irrelevant. Everyone has challenges and hardships. Talking about the obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goals is wasting time that could be devoted to the achievement of those goals.

Make everyday your masterpiece.

Make each day a new opportunity to excel and do your best. Do good, help others, and set an example while you are awake. You never know which masterpiece will be your last.

These are my interpretations of a few the Coach's thoughts. His Pyramid of Success sits on my desk. I will never forget how he could recite 25 lines of Shakespeare from memory. Or his ability to move an audience without bluster, hyperbole, or ego.

John-wooden-pyramid-of-success-printable 

We are grateful we had the Coach for almost a century. We have lost a great teacher of humanity, but his teachings will endure. We celebrate his life by becoming the best we can be.

Thanks Coach.

Thanks for reading. John


 


 


If you are down, you have to look UP!

After seeing a screening of Waiting for Superman, (which is a must see when it comes out in September) I started to think about looking up into the sky for help, super or not. We all have looked to the heavens for an explanation of a baffling situation or for some divine guidance. We also may look to our parents, our bosses or others above us in the food chain for answers or wisdom. Superman

The point is we have to see where we are going and seek assistance. Stop what we are doing to pause, reflect and think it through. Talking to somebody who understands and maybe has faced the same circumstances always helps.

Finding a true role model can make a difference. This person seems to have been able to balance the things that are important to you. Parent and career, community leader and accomplished professional. We meet, read about, and sometimes know these people. Call them mentors, call them role models, call them inspirations. You can admire them, but you need to study and ideally understand them. Understand the costs, the requirements, the support systems, the sense of fulfillment. You have to get beyond the gloss and the press images of success.

I have found that some people are born into success, others were inspired, and most worked hard to get there. None of the models I have followed have had it easy.

Keeping your eyes up and your mind on what lies ahead is more more important than ever. The writing on the wall, the signs of change, the risks and choices, and the opportunities. Imagine how dangerous it would be to drive by only looking at your dashboard. Looking up will tell you so much more.

I talk to people who loosely fall into three large groups these days. Group 1 is hanging on to what they have. Group 2 is making a move to the next chapter. Group 3 is hedging their bets, uncertain and or paralyzed. They are the worst off. At least Group 1 is loyal and committed. Group 2 is committed to change. Group three, like all groups who wallow in indecision, their careers have reached the ceiling and they only have a down button on their elevators.  

Looking up is not getting lost in the stars and distant dreams that seem improbable. It is not comparing your current circumstance to another greener pasture you have not visited or studied. It is keeping an eye on the horizon to see your options and next steps. It is looking up to those that can show you what you need to do. Looking up is making sure you are a couple steps ahead on the chess board of life. Role models, mentors and other confidantes can keep your thinking fresh.

In BreakingThrough, the Harvard Business Press examination of minority hard driving execs, found that a notable percentage who reached the top of their professions, did NOT want it. It was not as attractive as it looked from afar. They set a goal and spent years focused on the steps and strategies to get to that destination, without regard to what it takes to do that job--the sacrifices, the "costs", the travel, the politics, the distance from the customer. These ambitious people rarely looked up to question their goals. They became blindly committed to a path and their daily lives revolved around making progress to that end.

Again, we are all guilty of self deception. We make up stories about our paths that lead up to our goals. They sound good, but we have not mapped out these paths to the ends. 

Looking up Looking up is the recognition that our lives are moving toward a destination, intended or unintended. And it is never too late to make changes and course corrections.  Some people think this is the time to stay focused. I agree. Being focused is not tunnel vision. Staying focused means not giving up on your goals and the steps necessary to achieve them.

Things are looking up. Keeping your head down insures that inspiration, help, and your future will be out of sight. Looking up from our busy lives, looking up to people who can help you, looking up the path to where you are going and where you want to be--that is a strategy that will not require the services of a caped crusader.  

Thanks for reading. John


Truth and Candor: Key Ingredients in the Recipe of Mentoring and Networking

Remember in Liar Liar when Jim Carrey's character was only allowed to to tell the truth. "Do you like my new dress?"-- he was asked. "Whatever takes the focus off your head," he replies.

No need to put our truth tasers on the kill setting! Taser

The truth is, we are less than candid everyday. How we answer the question, "How are you?", for example.

Sometimes being vague, evasive and telling a little fib is the only thing to do to avoid a fight or an unnecessary confrontation. We all have friends where we have to avoid certain political, religious, and parenting conversations, because we just have to agree to disagree.

There is always a time and a place to be the diplomat, the nice person. You know, the person who couches things in lovely and euphemistic ways. Where between the lines is a vast and cavernous space where the truth lives comfortably and invisibly.

George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place."

I am talking about candor, frankness, and directness in conversations.

Candor: Unreserved, honest, or sincere expression 

I am more focused on the sincere side of this ledger. Less on the brutal portion.

We have all experienced the broad gamut of styles from the flame thrower who uses the truth to burn everyone and everything. Then there are the “happy” people who smile and even giggle during a challenging moment and will do anything to not ruffle feathers or make anyone uncomfortable. Like all things we need to use the middle lanes of these communication freeways.

But if the truth was a more common currency in our everyday exchanges and transaction, we would be better off. Candor of the sincere type, would speed up so many things in our lives. Getting people to contribute their ideas and real thoughts frequently would facilitate change, improvement, and greater outcomes in our personal and professional worlds. Having people get to what's bothering them and complimenting the good would be so efficient not to mention pleasant.

Truth begets truth.

As a friendly reminder to myself and you good readers, the truth also includes the good and the praiseworthy. Sometimes, we hear "tell the truth" and we think give the bad news or make a confession.

Scales So many candid truthful good things go unsaid. How much we love, care about, appreciate the people and things around us too often remain unexpressed thoughts.

For those of you following along, mentoring and networking require a few extra scoops of candor if the recipe is to work. Both mentee and mentor need to get to a place of truth telling as fast as they can. Otherwise great time and effort can be wasted and misunderstood if it remains a polite game of mutual admiration.

Party manners are in order at the beginning of any relationship. We all know that this period is not real, later we will share ourselves with greater transparency.

Office politics is the most brutal and most challenging of all worlds. More than 2 people in an office and controversy, petty thoughts and behaviors can ensue. Getting beyond the rumor mill, the conspiracy theories, and the repetitive whining is a challenge in every office I have occupied. Part human nature, part management, and part culture.

Not speaking up. Not saying what you think. Not being an active contributor to your organizations’ development and evolution is a cardinal sin if you want to grow into a more effective manager/leader. The higher up the food chain you go, the more truth based on evidence and judgment is demanded. Less time for nuance, interpretation, and just plain waiting.

Sure it would be nicer and better if your boss, the work culture, your friends, your family all modeled this behavior more. And if they did it you would do it. What?!! There you go again, sounds like a whiny person who is not in control of their life and actions. Why not be first to model the behavior you want to see. Request more candid feedback and answers in your conversations. Seek and tell the truth.

Remember in Alice in Wonderland when the March Hare says to Alice, "Then you should say what you mean." And mean what you say.  200px-MarchHare

Thanks for reading. John


Multi-generational Networking and Mentoring

If we are honest with ourselves we all harbor prejudices about others who are different from ourselves.Stereotypes persist because they contain a grain of truth. However, we learn that stereotypes confine a group to a convenient little box. Stereotypes ultimately hold back a group, especially if they are not in control.Once we discover for ourselves the truth by meeting and getting to know people, we find out how limiting and pernicious stereotypes can be.

One of the most misunderstood prejudices is between the generations. Always been the case, but today it is amplified by life expectancy the profound differences in the accelerated changes, experiences, and historical events that have shaped each group's point of view. Like all discussions of differences, there is a fine line between education/awareness and reinforcing stereotypes. That being said, thinking about and understanding these differences is a part of appreciating commonalities. Generational

Take this Generation IQ test to see how you fare. And then check out the chart below to remind you about  the basic differences among the generations.

Boomers and the Millennials may have the biggest generation gap. Not just in years, but in world views. One irony is the former formed the latter's mindset. This is highlighted in the workplace. Boomer bosses can't understand the work ethic or what they perceive the lack of one. And Millennials are peeved by the attempts to make them fit into the old set of rules that have not proven to make the world any better. Like all divergent points of view, both are correct. Nothing gets done unless there are bridges of mutual benefit and understanding are built.

This is where networking and mentoring come to the rescue. Everybody wants to be listened to and to be understood. Spending the time to get to know one another will enable you to find out that you want the same basic things. Some of the issues are pretty insignificant. Some flex in the rules and hours. Making the impact of the work more palpable, more meaningful, and more understood. And giving the youth guidance on the path to their goals. I have found these steps help. Bottom line: listen and find the common grounds before making any statments or pronouncements. 

Traditionalists

Civics

born 1920-1944

Baby Boomers

born 1945-1964

Generation X

born 1965-1976

Millennials

Gen Y

Born 1977-1994

Context

Great Depression, WWII

“Sixties”,Vietnam Advent of TV, Civil Rights

Iran Hostages, Divorce, Latch-keys, Microwave Ovens

Computers, Internet, Helicopter parents, 9/11

Population

30 million

36 million

50 million

77 million

Work Style

By the book - "how" is as important as "what" gets done

Get it done - whatever it takes - nights and weekends

Find the fastest route to results; protocol secondary

Work to deadlines - not necessarily to schedules

Authority/
Leadership

Command/control; rarely question authority

Respect for power and accomplishment

Rules are flexible; collaboration is important

Value autonomy; less inclined to pursue formal leadership positions

Communication

Formal and through proper channels

Somewhat formal and through structured network

Casual and direct; sometimes skeptical

Casual and direct; eager to please

Recognition/
Reward

Personal acknowledgement and compensation for work well done

Public acknowledgement and career advancement

A balance of fair compensation and ample time off as reward

Individual and public praise (exposure); opportunity for broadening skills

Work/Family

Work and family should be kept separate

Work comes first

Value work/life balance

Value blending personal life into work

Loyalty

To the organization

To the importance and meaning of work

To individual career goals

To the people involved with the project

Technology

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Necessary for progress

Practical tools for getting things done

What else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, mentoring offers the most powerful tool to span the ravine between the boomers and the millennials. Millennials want to learn and grow and they want to define success. Boomers need new ideas, technology and energy. On the surface this is a marriage made in heaven.

"Mentoring young employees is a tested way to transfer knowledge, and there are mutual benefits. "There's a lot to be said for reverse mentoring," says Piktialis. "Younger workers can learn about the organization and social networking from older employees, but experienced workers can also gain so much in terms of new technology and proficiency." Use your younger employees for sharing and training on the latest software and hardware; they will feel valued for their skills, and your older employees will benefit by staying current. says Diane Piktialis, research working group leader of the Conference Board.

I learned this the hard way when I led my first start-up. I realized my limitations in the new tech world and I swallowed my pride and engaged younger mentors to help me understand and lead with the best information. In exchange, I showed them all of my bag of tricks and gave them more opportunities. Later I turned this into a more intentional process to make sure we captured this two-way mentoring process to benefit the organization's mission. In the end mutual goals were achieved and both the mentee and the mentor were better off.

Consider a skill based mentoring program where mentor and mentee are matched on interests, not seniority or position in the organization. Here's an excerpt from a program touted by the University of Texas:

Consider creating a mentoring program based on your workers’ skills and not based on their function or seniority in the organization. This new and different approach gives any employee from any generation a way to transfer or receive a new skill. For example, an employee might want to learn how to “tweet,” another employee may want to learn how to coach. Whoever possesses that skill within the organization, on any level, can share that information with their co-workers. This model allows all generations to learn together in a way that doesn’t threaten anyone’s position, because it centers on learning different skills from a variety of co-workers.

While technology is the easiest focus for some boomers, look deeper for other connecting points. And for the millennials, leadership and management may be the obvious topic. If you take a complete interest inventory, you will discover other opportunities to enhance the skill and knowledge needs in your organization.

Being a leader today requires you to engage tools and processes to optimize the talents and potential in the people you manage or work with. It requires you to create new partnerships, alliances, and mentorships to be successful.

No one wants to be accused of discrimination or prejudice--although it exists. Understanding these generational differences makes us better employees, managers, marketers, parents, and customer servers. Advancing mutually beneficial ideas that connect parties of different generations may be a productive first step across the generational canyon. Connecting and listening always help. Skill based mentoring may be a tangible way to make more progress between the cubicles and offices and beyond.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Reality check from Haiti and the power of networks

Do you remember the 1985 story about the $5000 of relief aid that was sent between Mexico and Ethiopia, which was enduring great suffering. Drought and war had ravaged the Ethiopian way of life. I remember thinking that the $5000 was such a pittance given the urgent and widespread needs. However, I realized I had mis-read the article. the financial aid went from Ethiopia TO Mexico to help with the huge earthquake in Mexico City. Then I learned that in 1935, a half a century before, Mexico had sent aid when Italy invaded Ethiopia and they never forgot. Ethiopians who remembered reciprocated, they fulfilled their sense of mutual obligation to their brothers and sisters in Mexico.

We help Haiti now and in the future because we are connected to them. Because we have an obligation  as humankind to help one another. I just hope that our focus on Haiti and the needs there will not fade too soon. 2 weeks into the devastation and our attention spans are already strained.

I was formally introduced to the International Medical Corps(IMC) last week. It was sort of embarrassing because IMC is based here in LA and I really did not know them. They provided a small corporate briefing to raise money and awareness. IMC is a very impressive organization that provides medical aid as their name implies. They were on the ground in Haiti 22 hours after the earthquake was reported. In fact they are most often first in where medical assistance is required.  By the way they are the ones who helped save Monley the 5 year old who was pulled from the rubble and is now doing fine. In brief here's what separates IMC from others:

  1. IMC engages the local population to train and sustain their efforts. 96% of their team members are from the local country.
  2. IMC stays with the hard work of getting through the crisis and then moves into the necessary transition to public health and rebuilding. IMC is among the few humanitarian agencies still in Darfur and Iraq for example.
  3. IMC spends 92% of its gifts on their programs! Amazingly efficient.

But IMC leverages their donations by serving as a hub of a powerful and experienced network of resources. They use the power of multiplication to amplify their impact. They match every dollar with a minimum of 20x in aid and support. In fact I was told that it is now closer to 59 to 1! But it is their philosophy to not be a foreign aid team that parachutes in and leaves that impresses me most. They train locals to grow their reach from thousands to millions and leave a legacy of a self-reliant infrastructure.

The power of networks are known to all of us. And if they endure because they are self sustaining then the ripple effect really happens. Networks that are not dependent on one member or one resource are powerful and replicable. IMC responds by engaging its growing worldwide network that now spans 50 countries.

Nancy Aossey has headed IMC for the last 25 years. Like all great leaders she is brimming with energy and passion for her work. She is charismatic but not flashy. She is very much like IMC -- substantial. More about effectiveness than ego. Probably why their brand is not a household name. Nevertheless they continue to do their magic where they are needed.

After learning about them my family decided to give them most of our 2010 charitable contributions. Please consider helping them too. 

Our lives are truly changed by the people we meet. If we spend a little time understanding who they are, why they do what they do, our own trajectories and paths are altered. We glean little bits of sanity and rationality, and comfort from these encounters. And sometimes these conversations open our brains to new ideas and thoughts.  It shows us the power of the human spirit. It redefines us. We get mentored in these moments of enlightenment and reconsider who we are and where we are going. Learning about IMC had that impact on me.

Yeah I am a bit of a pushover, my heart and maybe my own guilt lead me too often. But I think these moments are after shock reality checks. They are the speed bumps that get us to decelerate a bit and consider what we are doing to make a difference. We could all quit our jobs and join IMC. Not suggesting that. But we need to learn from IMC's wonderful model.Reality checks

We all volunteer, donate, and empathize--that is the baseline of humanity. We do that because we are upright and we have hearts. But how do we leverage the good we do? How do we use our talents and networks to multiply that good? As I am fond of saying, even the lone ranger did not ride alone.  Never be discouraged by "I am just one person". The power of networks, of working with others is empowering and powerful. Re-committing ourselves to our own passions and engaging our networks in that work has to be a priority. And one person can make more of a difference.

So give money and or time to Haiti. It will make a difference and make you feel good. But use this time to consider the IMC model of leveraging goodwill through your network. Think about how we make a bigger impact or change. And like Mexico and Ethiopia, we will also build stronger bonds to help one another now and in the future.

Thanks for reading. John


Your Career Kitchen Cabinet

We all know that any great organization, company, even celebrity, certainly political leaders need a small circle of trusted advisers. And as we see in the news headlines everyday, if that counsel is not real and provides only encouragement for the wishes of the leaders(s), then trouble is imminent. --Like the old drunk who relies on the lamp post more for support than any illumination. True advisers provide accountability and a reality check on actions and plans. Who advises us? The regular folk who are not famous, rich or elected? We all have goals and dreams, but many of us need help to keep us on track. Otherwise, we can get away with saying and thinking things we never do. By the way, thathabit will give you a monorail ticket to a very undesirable place called Regret City!

Less than a couple of weeks into the new year you are probably still committed to your resolutions -- please say you have not bailed yet. :) One way to insure longer term success is to form a "kitchen cabinet",a group of your trusted advisers to monitor your progress and hold you to your goals. Similar to a board of directors, your cabinet knows your goals and asks for status reports. Like a a good board they are not interested in effort and activity, they want results. They are interested in a better you. BoardBoard room

However, unless you are such a popular person where you can attract people to serve your needs and you alone, then you should build a different structure based upon reciprocity. A group, no more than 6, that agrees to help one another. This kitchen cabinet gets together on a regular basis for the expressed purpose of advising and assisting ALL members succeed. This is a group of serious colleagues that care about each other and are committed to helping one another. Career guru Barbara Sher calls these success teams. It is a mentoring seance, where you are joined by the futures you see for one another.

Here are some basic tips on how you get started buiding your career kitchen cabinet:

  1. Forming the cabinet--Clearly, picking the members of your cabinet is the toughest part. Start with a couple of the people you know well. People you trust and getting together with them more frequently would be fun. If they know each other that is even better. Meet with them and broach the idea. I advise against couples only because invariably it introduces elements that can distract from the group goals. Things like chemistry, candor, and buy-in can be factors. If you are daring, each of your closest associates could invite one person that would add new dimensions and breadth to the group. And there is always something about having new people there to make you more attentive to the process. The key is getting people that have rapport, agree on the group goals, and are committed to mutual success. Try to avoid a group that all have the same backgrounds, political beliefs, or industry connections. This is where diverse thinking is powerful.
  2. Convening the cabinet--Without consistency this will not work. Sher recommends weekly meetings. I think monthly will work. But like a good book club, you got to prepare and show otherwise all is lost. Each member rotates to convene the group by choosing the location and date and time (if you have not settled on a regular date and time which is recommended.) You can set standards about the quality of the establishment, cuisine, newness etc to add a little incentive for the group. One group I was in required the host to cook "extraordinary" food so at least the food might generate thought. The group should make a one year commitment--12 meetings.
  3. Common ground for the cabinet--This is critical. Getting everyone familiar with the bios and backgrounds of each member is essential. So spending time on the introductions, in-depth and revealing understandings of one another will generate a new network of opportunities. Next, everyone needs to write down their goals. Use my SWiVEL or devise one based upon the needs and interests of the group. Having a common form that gives everyone a starting point for the conversations that will ensue.
  4. Cabinet sessions--After the intros and written docs, the sessions just have to make time for every member to report on their progress and allow for feedback. Not so formulaic that it feels too structured but focused on your purpose as a group. The assumption is every member is there to offer advice, expertise, and their network.

Hands together
But this is not a business as usual approach that helps one another achieve mediocrity. The secret to this concept is others will invariably see your potential more than you do. Your ideas become more polished or get abandoned because of the feedback. And when the group gets some momentum built on respect and trust, then the cabinet can become an incubation lab to explore new ideas and aspirations.

The reality is WE is always better than ME. We have to work together to refine our ideas about where we are going. A kitchen cabinet can be a powerful advantage that strengthens your network and your path to achieving your goals.

Thanks for reading. John


Are you mentor-able?

First like to share two quick but potent sources of inspiration I had this week in the hope that vicariously it inspires you.

  • Saw Gustavo Dudamel's debut, the new 28 year phenom conductor, lead the the LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall. Words fail me. He was frenetic and energetic. He got lost in the music as all of us did. He used hand gestures and leg movements that would have made accomplished hula dancers and choreographers envious. He is and will become a new rock star and more important role model for a new generation of music lovers. By the end of the concert the audience was fulfilled and exhausted! To get a sample of his captivating style watch this video and the tribute to his mentor.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, heard Sirdeaner Walker (watch this video), who courageously spoke at the GLSEN Respect awards ceremony about her 11 year old boy Carl who hung himself because he was bullied about being gay or looking gay. Already 3 documented instances this year of 5th graders taking their lives for similar reasons. 4500 suicides a year amongst 10-20 year olds and the third leading cause of death for this age group! Saddened by the unthinkable tragedy of losing a child but inspired by the courage and the hope that Ms. Walker voiced about our collective need to stop bullying and to support the great efforts underway to bring mutual respect and civility to our schools and communities. 

More than any topic the selection and acquisition of a mentor uses my cycles and time. People are confused, stymied, and yet greatly desirous of having an all-knowing mentor. There is just a world of misunderstanding , mis-information, and mythology out there. I have spent hundreds of hours on this topic and devoted several posts on this. But I want to turn my attention to what makes someone mentor-able

This general idea that everyone needs a mentor, pushes the acquisition of such a life counselor before the preparation to be mentored. In other words, having a mentor means being prepared to be mentored. Here's where we often get confused. At places like Big Brothers Big Sisters, where an at-risk youth, who usually do not have both parents, live in poverty, and have multiple other challenges, is paired with a caring adult who is compatible. This is a wonderful and incredibly effective model where the transformation of both the mentor and the mentee are well documented. However, this model is very different and not transferable to the professional arena. Many large and prestigious organizations have made this mistake in designing their mentoring programs. But I digress. What a professional needs for career guidance around life's choices is entirely different. The objective, the structure, and the mutual benefits only resemble one another.

I asked one of my mentors to tell me how she chooses mentees. She went off! She has been exasperated by the stream of goal-less, ambition-less, and track-record-less people who want to be mentored by her. She said, "I mentor causes and individuals who have shown me their potential. I choose the mentees they do not choose me. I do this out of my selfish interest to help the causes and organizations I care about grow and improve. Why waste our time on people or issues who have not expressed their potential?"

So what makes you mentor-able? What signs of potential do you have or do you express? How will potential mentors know you are ready for mentoring? J0433167

Never sufficient to just say "I need a mentor!" It can actually sound very greedy and self-centered. But like most things in life the preparation for opportunities and mentors takes some effort and focus. 

So far away from the great needs of at-risk youth are the needs of professionals who need feedback, advice, and wisdom. In the Darwinian world we reside in, the people with raw talent and who exert great effort and display passion for their work--make the best candidates for mentoring. Unless you are under the age of 25, you need to be figuring out who you are and where you are going. You need to be focused on what you want. 

Don't get me wrong, you can find mentoring and mentors in many places around you. Mentoring sources are plentiful. But this quest for a game-changing mentor, THE mentor, someone who will be a longer term confidante--that requires you to get your act together. Think about it, as my mentor says, why expend energy on professionals who are truly lost ?, when there are so many others who may not even be actively seeking help who have displayed their promise. To alter a famous quote, "The door to mentoring opens from within.

I can hear some of you saying--"But that's why I need a mentor!" I know I know. Get mentoring through your network, through trusted people you know. Test your ideas, nurture your curiosities, follow your heart. When you do these things you become more mentor-able. Potential  mentors will see what you are doing, but more important, you will be pursuing your inner interests and talents. You become who you are. People who do that not only get more mentoring but mentor us all. 

Thanks for reading. John


Who is mentoring our kids?

J0439456 Most kids have returned to school. Isn't the Fall a wonderful time to reflect and consider our possibilities--how we all need to get back to the "school of life". 

Check out this new website that my good friend quietly launched this week My Teacher My Hero. See who influenced some of the top thinkers and leaders in our country. Funny how we can each remember a teacher or two who made a deep and lasting impression on us. Someone who took an interest in us and made us see our own possibilities. A teacher who challenged us to reach higher and further. This was one of your first mentors, they helped you become better as a person and a student. For me, Mrs. Lewis in 3rd grade and Mr. Bougeris in 10th grade stand out as teachers who made a difference. J0439571

Educate yourself about this debate on teacher quality and teacher performance -- makes a difference to our kids and the next generation. We don't appreciate how hard this job is. We don't really understand what it takes to manage a classroom, get through all of the curriculum that is required and do that basically by yourself. It is a job we do not understand or value enough. That being said, having the best teachers standing at the front of that class could be the difference that not only changes student lives but changes all of our lives. We all lose when any talent or shred of genius is not given the chance to shine and grow. This is not a standard that can be compromised. 

The Gates Foundation has spent literally billions of dollars trying to improve public schools. It has been a experience that has yielded great lessons and data. Watch this video Bill Gates Unplugged, he discusses malaria and then gives a riveting presentation on teachers. 

And I like many believe that teachers are undervalued and underpaid. I like what  Michelle Rhee Chancellor of Washington DC school system is doing, --offering huge pay increases for the right to evaluate teachers on performance and not on tenure is a model that needs to be emulated. Hard to believe that most school systems give tenure--security of employment for life-- after about 5 years, it varies from 2-7 years. Did you know that? No other profession I know has such an amazing deal. Clearly that is one of the factors that keeps salaries down. Not against tenure, but performance and quality have to be major factors in granting tenure, right? And should tenure be for life?!! 

If you have an interest in addressing poverty, helping kids make better choices, improving the economy--think about how we guide and mentor our kids outside the home. Think about one of the biggest influences on our kids--teachers. Don't you think that if students encounter a teacher like the ones we remember, that their ability to find themselves, to stay in school, to become productive members of our society increases? For many kids they don't have 2 parents or any parents. Who mentors these kids?

When I was at Big Brothers Big Sisters, I used to ask people what the most powerful mentoring organization is. It was a trick question. I would say "Gangs."  Homeboy They have an incredible system of mentoring, training, and fulfilling the needs of young vulnerable people. And the consequences are deadly. And for the few who can escape or be rescued, the re-entry into society can be brutal. One of many guiding lights in this area has been Father Boyle's work at Homeboy Industries. Homeboy does miracles with its tattoo removal, re-education, training for jobs, and placement services. But this is the consequence of a failed system. I am not blaming the schools, I am blaming us. How did we let this happen?

We all know, if a kid can stay in school, the likelihood of being recruited to the dark side is lessened. And, if those kids are fortunate to have teachers who will inspire them, to mentor them, then we save kids and we preserve the talent in our community. Those of us who have kids or care about our future--that would be all of us!--need to keep on top of this issue. No single factor makes a bigger difference in our public schools than the teacher.

Let's all go back to school this Fall. Let's all cherish those teaching and mentoring memories of days gone by. Let's reflect on the influence of great teachers and mentors. Let's engage in the understanding of what is happening in our classrooms. Let's support our teachers and our public schools. 

Who are you mentoring? Never forget, regardless of your position in life, you too are mentoring and teaching kids and others by your actions.

Thanks for reading. John


A Tourist in Latin America

Special thanks to Helpguide.org for using portions of my blogs to create articles about networking, job search and resumes. Helpguide is one of the world's leading sites to empower you and to assist you in surmounting the challenges of life. A great resource for the entire family. 

First of all it's nice to be back home after traversing South America for last 14 days. Went through Peru and saw the remarkable Machu Picchu. (one of my "bucket list" items) Then went to see Chile and my oldest daughter who is studying down there. Like any trip out of your neighborhood and country, you see and experience things that force you to examine your values and your own worldview. Hard not to have your ethnocentrism tested when you are a tourist. Traveling can be a trip into introspection and self evaluation.

Standing at the foot of the great redwoods, the edge of the Grand Canyon, traversing the Great Wall, or ascending the Eiffel Tower, stunning natural or man-made phenomena give us pause to consider our significance and insignificance. How vapid our lives can seem when we are so focused on the accumulation of material goods that never will be enough. What am I doing here? What will my contribution be? Out of the box travel can be a type of mentoring. You are forced into reflection by shared experiences, by what you see and what you think. That's the way it works. Your experiences create thoughts and those thoughts have emotional content and if you pay attention, they can shift your perspective and your future plans and actions. That's powerful mentoring! 

I had two modest goals for this trip:DSC03483

  1. To get my teenage kids out of their little electronic cocoons and be inspired by reality, without technology. 
  2. To see and experience a little of different cultures, to understand and appreciate our commonalities and differences
I realize that as a tourist you most often see a highly skewed part of that world. Your view is warped by the magnetic economic forces between the tourists and tourism. Yet, if you venture off the path and explore a bit, you will see more reality and more truth. I could easily argue that most of us are de-sensitized to the special qualities of our own home towns and neighborhoods, which in turn excite tourists. We do not stray from our routines and similar to tourists we see and know only a limited view of our worlds. As a visiting tourist you have fresh eyes and you can ask questions that often stump the locals. Putting on the tourist hat even when we are home could yield many benefits. 

That disorienting feeling when you have little competence in the language or where things are definitive parts of being a tourist. However, there is an overwhelming tendency to seek comfort in things we know and trust. In the extreme, when abroad, we stay at the Hilton hotels, get coffee at Starbucks, and never try to utter a word other than English. All of the trappings of the ugly American. When I travel I awkwardly try to converse and understand what I see, eat, and experience. That was my focus this time too. My kids would say, Dad you are still ugly! All of us tried to resist our less adventuresome impulses, try new things, and show respect for the new cultures.
DSC03411

Without getting off on a giant historical and anthropological tangent, the Incans have always impressed me with their accomplishments. But ascending to the top of Machu Picchu brought my admiration to pure awe. The innovative technology, the sheer devotion to precision, the respect for nature, and the focus over a long time horizon. Not fully understanding the hierarchical systems and the means by which "incentives and motivations" were sustained, the results are stunning. No surprise why this is one of the seven modern Wonders of the World. Our guide Fabricio kept urging us to see beyond the images. Imagine what effort and work it took to accomplish these feats. Think about the journey rather than the destination. What sets Machu Picchu apart from many other extraordinary wonders, is the treacherous location of this complex agricultural and urban development. It sits atop of a 8000 ft mountain.

In the end, we return to the beginning and we are different. (apologies to TS Eliot) We accomplished our goals. We have traveled far and our experiences have altered our perspectives. We have an appreciation for Peru and Chile, that heretofore did not exist. We have a greater appreciation for what we have. Our respect for the Incans and the inspiration of Machu Picchu will not fade. But will the mentoring we received from our travels last? Will it make a difference in how we act or what we do with our lives? That's up to us to maintain that slightly uncomfortable, curious, and experimental tourist frame of mind. Our journey continues. 

Thanks for traveling along with me. John


How Do I Help Others Network? The Conveyor Belt of Life

In the final analysis, I think we all will be judged on how we help one another. Have we unconditionally and effectively assisted our friends, colleagues, and family members, especially in times like these? Everyday I receive a request of some sort--regarding a job, a reference, looking for a new career, trying to connect to a new network of opportunities, review a resume etc etc. I am sure you are getting your share too. Usually the person in need (PIN) connects to me through someone else. And that person knows me somehow. I make a quick determination whether I can help the person and take next steps in my process--more about that later. People are eager to hand off the PIN in a quick transactional way. Like a hot potato, the PIN is quickly tossed to someone in the network, sometimes with care and sometime recklessly. Hot potato Sometimes with a nice intro and warm request. Often with a pretty inelegant hand off, leaving the PIN to say, "So and so said I should contact you." Hopefully I know or like so and so.:)

In sports, life,  and work---the art of of the hand-off is a valuable and necessary skill. On a relay team, how well the baton is exchanged determines how well they do at the finish line. Passing baton When a huge corporate sale is made, how well it is turned over to operations will create results for the customer and generate great word-of-mouth and more sales. On the assemblyline of life we must depend on the work that precedes us and hand off to the "workers" after us a better product otherwise the end product suffers. What we do builds on what others do. Otherwise life is like a giant Lucy Ricardo conveyor belt of chaos and lost productivity. 

 

If there is an evil conveyor belt operator, all bets are off. :) Seriously the only way the system of life works is when we each do our part and do it well. The probability of the quality of the end product goes up with the diligence and competency of each step. This goes for parenting, the education system, or project management or architecture. But it definately applies to networking.

I am the victim of bad hand-offs at least once every week. They go something like this: 

  • The voicemail message squawks:"Hi John, so and so said I should talk to you about my career/job search/resume." I think to myself I wonder who so and so is.
  • A friend calls me and says, "My wife's sister was just laid off and is going to connect with you. Can you help her find something in LA?"  I think what a very unfocused request.

Bad, bad, bad, hand offs! A disservice to me and especially the PIN. Here's how to prevent bad hand-offs and actually help the PIN. 

  1. Prep the PIN--When we agree to help someone who is connected to someone we care about, we have to help them. Meaning--Help the PIN think about their strategy, their resume, their approach and goals. Hold up the mirror to them and tell them what you see. Do their goals match their experience and resume? If not tell them. Do you know how much time the PIN has to find a new job or career? Makes a huge difference in what kind of assistance they need. What are the requirements for the next gig? Salary? Location? Don't put them on the assemblyline without your honest advice and assessment.
  2. Give them my SWIVEL Download SWIVEL new 2009. I provide this to almost every PIN who is referred to me. It causes them to stop and slow down
  3. Prep the Network--At least make a call or send an e-mail alerting the network that this PIN is coming down the conveyor belt. A brief note on how you know them, their resume , and what you think they need (as opposed to what the PIN thinks)
  4. Follow-up with both--Touch base with both via e-mail. Did you connect? If so, how was it? Thank the network!
Yes, I know this takes more time, but we are dealing with human beings not widgets on this assemblyline! This is a full service networking site not the cheap imitations. :) Seriously, that's why it is a lifestyle and not a hobby. How we help PINs in all walks of life shape who we are and our sense of fulfillment. Nothing like an assemblyline that cares about the quality of its production.

Thanks for reading. John 
  

Reconnecting with your "old" network

"We strive, all of us for excellence. We want to be the very best we can be. It’s axiomatic— if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you most often get it. If you are willing to accept less than the best, you’ll get that too. And that’s the point. If you work to your highest potential, do all you are capable of doing, you will literally astound yourself.

General George Patton, no shrinking violet, said it well: “The most vital qualities a successful person can possess is self-confidence— utter and complete heart, spirit, and audacity. You can have doubts about your good looks, your intelligence, about your self-control— but to win, you must have no doubts about your abilities.”
Moby dick

You need to be the kind of person who would go after Moby Dick with a row boat, a harpoon, and a jar of tartar sauce."    Jerold Panas

Not sure why you would use tartar sauce, but love this quote.

There was a tie in the poll and therefore I choose. :) There are two reasons why this topic is relevant to you:
  1. You NEED to connect with old colleagues, bosses, acquaintances etc, because you are pounding the pavement or need a reference.     
  2. You were just reminiscing about an "old friend" but you have neglected keeping in touch (no holiday cards have been exchanged) and you wanted to catch up.  
In either case you feel a bit awkward and a tad guilty. 
This is why adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is so important. Staying connected is hard work but less uncomfortable later. No worries. There are a host of strategies to ease your pain.

Before you go off and reconnect with all previously known humans--get your act together, do a little homework. Be prepared to articulate what you are looking for and what help you can provide. Remind yourself that reconnecting with "old" friends will be fun--even if you have an agenda. It will fill a small whole you have in your heart and in you mind and that will fill good. The more this feels like a chore the more tedious and anxiety ridden the process will be. 

Once you are ready and you have a list of "old friends, take the following easy steps:
  1. Google them. Find out what you can through available resources. You may snag their contact info. It will also give you the background on them so you do not sound so out of touch when you connect. BTW, you should Google everyone you meet with!
  2. Talk to mutual friends. Do some investigation through mutual contacts to understand how your lost contact is doing. He/she may be worse off than you!  
  3. Contact them.  Pick up the phone, bang out an e-mail, just re-establish a connection as directly as you can. Meet face to face if possible. The closer you were to this person, the easier it will be to start over. 95% of the time the other person feels guilty too and they will be thrilled to hear from you. Just apologize for the time that has elapsed and reconnect. The point here is make the connection! 
WARNING: If you come off too desperate or too pushy then you poison the reconnect. On the other hand, take the time to get through the "catching up" phase before you blurt out your need. On the other hand, if this person is a senior exec, then come straight out with it. They expect your call and are ready to support you as a reference or possibly to refer you. 

The more specific you can be with your request the better. 
  • I am getting close to a couple of offers, will you be one of my references?
  • Just wanted to let you what I have been up to and to see if I can count on you as a reference.  
  • I am in the running for a few positions, I was wondering if you know anyone at ABC, XYZ or 123 companies?   
  • I am trying to make a career shift and I'd like to meet someone in the XXXXX field. Do you still know so and so or someone at XYZ company?  
Make sure you update them on your qualifications and your recent professional experience. Don't assume they still know you and know what to say. 250px-Social-network.svg
One easy strategy is to establish or invest time in the social networking sites. Facebook, Linkedin 
and many others are fantastic ways for you to reconnect effortlessly. Some of you think you are too old to have a facebook, think again. Linkedin is a bit more serious and less fluffy site. Nevertheless, sign-up, register and input some basic info and you are off to the races. Once you have a facebook and or Linkedin pages, you can connect to groups and look up people. Then you will have people trying to connect with you! You are always in control to confirm these requests. Investing time on these sites to nurture your network is time well spent. Once you find a few folks you can read their bios and what they are posting. And you can see the connections they have! This gives you a head start on the reconnecting process. 

The big question is : Why do we let some people slip into obscurity? I am not talking about people you had to work with or people you need for references. I am talking about those great friends and confidantes with whom you shared your personal stories and dreams. Make the time and effort to re-establish these relationships and I guarantee you they will bring you joy, new perspectives, and new opportunities. 

A key premise of mentoring and networking lifestyle is start with your EXISTING network! reconnecting is so much easier than establishing new relationships. 

The question is not how to reconnect as much as when. And the time is now! 

Thanks for reading. John

Multiple Networking Personality Syndrome

Consider for the moment that more Americans are enrolled in outplacement services than in MBA, Law, and Medical graduate programs combined! For most participants this is a brutal wake-up call and hopefully they find a new and prosperous path. But the biggest obstacle to their awakening is their resistance to learning who they are and what they want. In the end they have to adopt the networking and mentoring lifestyle--the best inoculation against the plague of an unexpected job interruption and not working is networking!

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All of us have Sybil like qualities of having multiple personalities, many faces, and many dimensions. That does not make us candidates for elecro-shock therapy! :) It is normal and makes us interesting. However, where did these personalities come from? Why do we have these facets and what makes them shine? Hopefully, I have not lost you already. I am referring to how we each act in our multiple roles. As a parent, a wife, a subordinate, a child, as a guest, or a host. You know, the way we switch instantaneously to a new persona based on expectations, history, or what we think is right. This is a giant topic, so I will discuss how you recognize the way you are presenting yourself in the world of networking and mentoring.

I meet so many people across the demographic and economic spectrum who are unwitting members of the Federal Witness Relocation Program! They have assumed new career identities. Often, these identities have been foisted upon us like second-hand Halloween costumes. In most cases this costume has been sewn together by the advice and guidance of well meaning people who have told us what we should do, what we are good at, and what we should not be. The classic, "You can't make money as a (fill in the blank art career)." And needing an identity, we slip on the costume and it is better than nothing. And over time we think the costume fits and like many things we adopt it as our own. Mary Jacobsen's book Hand Me Down Dreams discusses this topic in depth on how others shape the dreams we have. Our parents have aided and abetted the crime of identity theft. Parental expectations can govern everything. Pleasing our parents is an innate desire. What they said to us about our dreams and what our choices should be can be lifelong incentives or burdens. Asian parents are notorious, as are many different types of parents (I just happen to encounter many Asians in my worlds) in setting specific and non-negotiable goals. Like the old and stereotypical story about the Jewish kid who pursued law because he could not stand the sight of blood! Asian parents push academic achievement, brand name colleges, and the specific professions of medicine, law or engineering. In addressing Asian American young people, I usually start by giving them permission to think outside of the Asian parent box. Tell the parent you are going to be a doctor--maybe that turns out to be a PhD in literature! 

You blend this costume wardrobe with the requirements of social etiquette, brown-nosing at work, first date party manners, familiarity, respect, political correctness and the costumes keep on coming!

Context changes how we act. Sometimes that is nice and sometimes it is stupid. Here's one example that befuddles me. When bright competitive and hard-nosed executives, entrepreneurs, and successful people join non-profit boards, they become imbeciles. They don their nice and gentle costumes and bite their tongues because they assume new identities and not themselves. They think that a non-profit is a sanctuary from their cut throat worlds. While the mission and bottomline of a non-profit is doing good, non-profits need the tough acumen and decisiveness of the business world--but more often than not they don't get it.

Being authentic, being you--the real you, has to be your goal. Hiding who you are or suppressing your interests and needs will only hurt you in the long run, because you will eventually land in the land of regret--the most painful land of all. And while being yourself requires the discomfort of removing some of those now form fitting costumes, we all know being real does not require you to remember anything. Pursuing what you want and not what you think others will like, or what your parents desire, will always be more fulfilling. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public. Epictetus

I am not saying just blurt out your inner thoughts or to be so honest that you offend every person in your path! Mutual respect and being aware of your surroundings remain essential. That being said, you need to find ways to pursue your authentic self. Martin Seligman's authentic happiness site has a variety of free self assessments

Authentic Networking:

  1. Setting your real goals, not the ones that sound good to others
  2. Practice articulating what you want and who you are, not the words you have been saying as a placeholder.  Love when people introduce themselves as "Director of sales and an artist."
  3. Asserting yourself by asking the questions on your mind. Pursuing your true curiosity by asking the questions and getting the answers.
  4. Enhance your network with people that are real and model this behavior. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and like the real you.  

  Authentic Mentoring:

  1. Find a mentor who you can really talk to--Let loose and take intellectual risks with.
  2. Define and refine this real plan for you with a mentor co-architect. 
  3. Openly discuss your weaknesses and seek feedback from your mentor and others.  
  4. Conduct your own self assessment and get your mentor to evaluate it.  

Not saying that we can shed all of the costumes, but living exclusively in the Federal Witness Relocation Program will never work out. Like everything, your self-awareness about who you are, what you say, and where you are going are the best guides up the mountain of authenticity. That will determine who's in your network and who your mentors are. Then you can return many of the costumes to the goodwill shop. 

Sometimes we define ourselves by a job title or a role-- I am VP of the company or a homemaker. That is not you, that is only a part of you. Don't be defined by a role, you are an incredibly unique and talented person who is much more interesting and complex than any day job. And in the end, the only personality that counts is you.  

Thanks for reading. John  


The Role of the Mentee--Making the most from the mentoring relationship

I am grateful that anyone reads my thoughts and ideas. My aim is is to try to respond to your issues. I am glad even those not on the career track get something out of my blog. Always interested in your thoughts and suggestions. Here's a comment about last week's posting. 

I love your blog, John.

But not for the reasons you intend, possibly.  I am not on a "career track."  I'm not trying to "advance my brand," (my comment upon which term I'll keep to myself...you can thank me later).

But I love it anyway.  For me, these are not lessons for being successful in a corporate environment, but for being as fully human as possible.  "Say hello.  Smile.  Ask how someone is doing.  Listen to the answer."  All good, basic stuff...and stuff we've somehow lost track of in our current mad rush toward survival or success.  JW

Check out this story about Anonymous charitable networking/mentoring, an inspiring story about donors who want to help others in need and trigger a chain reaction of acts of kindness, Passing it Along. Sometimes we will never know the ones we mentor or help. That's what charity is all about. 

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Understanding the expectations of any side of a relationship facilitates its effectiveness. Whether you are a mentor or mentee, it is critical you consider and respect the role of the other. You know the old adage about walking in another's shoes to understand their perspective. I remember at my daughter Jenna's middle school graduation one of her classmates said, "I have learned that by walking a mile in a stranger's shoes that I will be a mile from home in someone else's shoes." :) I prefer the less literal meaning.....

This chart shows the requirements of both roles, notice the similarities.  

Mentor

Mentee

Commitment

Commitment

Convene, initiate, engage, listen

Respond, initiate, prepare, listen

Honest feedback

Honest revelations

Coach

Receptive to feedback

Be available

Respect the time

Hub of resources and references

Seek ways to assist your mentor

 

Clearly, the process of choosing the right mentor is essential. Once a mentee finds a compatible/potential mentor, the roles are often defined by the MENTEE. Not always, but frequently the mentor is looking for guidance on how they can help. Some have a set process, but most want to know what you want. In those cases, the mentee has to take the initiative. Too often, the mentee thinks they show up with eagerness and listen and the pearls of wisdom will flow. I have encountered numerous mentees that found their mentoring relationship to be less than expectations, mainly because the mentor was unresponsive to their needs. With notable exceptions, mentees defer--out of some assumption that the relationship is a lecture with a Q and A session. Often mentees have no idea what they want and hope that clarity and a sense of direction will emerge from the conversations. When the mentee has sharp question, questions about possible directions/paths/career life choices, then the mentor can be focused about her views and experiences and most importantly, help the mentee understand why they are asking these questions.


8 Habits of Effective Mentees (apologies to S. Covey)

1.     Be Proactive--Assert your agenda, who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Which presumes you have questions and a set of goal assumptions. 

The "I was hoping you would tell me what to do" strikes both fear and loathing in the heart of the mentor. 

2.     Begin with the end in mind--What are you aiming for? What is your vision or your general direction. And why? 

3.     Put first things first--What are your burning questions/choices? What is important to you now? Are there current issues, challenges that need to be addressed to advance your progress? 

4.     Think win/win--How can you help one another? These sessions should evolve into give and takes. In what ways can you assist your mentor? Clues will be given in your sessions. Information she is seeking, charities she supports, causes she follows, hobbies she pursues. Your interest in the mentor's priorities will deepen the relationship and broaden your understanding of the mentor and her success. Please do not misconstrue this with material gifts or birthday presents! 

5.     Seek first to understand then to be understood--You are there for advice--listen! Find the lessons that are being conveyed. Be open to learn things you did not expect. Sometimes a specific agenda disables the mentee from out of the box mentoring moments.

6.     Synergize--The real premise behind mentoring or any great conversation with a trusted colleague is new ideas are forged. 

7.     Renew thyself—Sharpen the saw--When the process works it will energize you. The process of finding what you want and more about who you will give you new strength and momentum.

8.     Find your voice and inspire others--Define and discover your uniqueness and make a commitment to teach others. Teach what you learn to others you care about, which will deepen your understanding. That's how we keep the mentoring lifecycle going.

In many ways, being a mentee has more burden than the mentor. Mentees have to walk the razor's edge of testing their ideas and questions and listening and incorporating the guidance of the mentor. In my mind both are enjoyable, both yield powerful benefits to those who take the roles and responsibilities seriously. And in the end we pass it along. 

Thanks for reading. John


Finding the right mentor---for me

Close vote this week, but this topic was the winner. Please vote!


Spent an afternoon with some very ambitious and clear minded employees of Lockheed Martin last week. Enjoyed their challenges and questions. Most of them merely received reinforcement from me, others may have endured a sharp nudge to do what they have been wanting to do. I wish them all well. Mentoring dominated our discussions and this question was one of our focal points. Working in large multi-level organizations like LM presents different challenges and opportunities. The key is maintaining a high level of self awareness, not letting yourself succumb to the mindset of limits that a large hierarchy can impose. How do I become an intraprenuer?--someone who innovates, takes responsibility for their own destiny, creates value beyond the norm--yet is without separate capital and finds themselves in a large and seemingly intractable culture. The other strategy is to never be limited by your "day job". Pursue interest areas, your ideas, join others in social or commercial ventures on your own time, outside of work. Never let your current environment dictate who you are and who you can be. And one of the most powerful ways of achieving success inside a big corp or on your own is to have fabulous mentors.

But finding the right mentors can be daunting. I think more often than not, people try and align their current career path with their mentors. While greater expertise can be a valuable goal, the mentors to which I refer can be very different. Let's review this mentoring thing. 

Mentoring is the process of helping each other get better. It is a 2-way street. While it can be arranged by others, like your employer, mentoring requires a relationship that depends on chemistry and trust. Mentoring is a reality check. Helping one another see the truth, it is not merely encouragement or support. It is a reflection in the mirror of life to guide you to what you want and who you want to be. In all walks of life mentoring is recognized as one of the most powerful sources of transformation.

Some basic myths about mentors:
  1. My mentor will always be an older/wiser person. There is a mythology that mentoring can only be conducted by gurus or the super successful. Mentoring can come from many sources and age, status, years of experience will never guarantee good mentoring. Since we are defining mentoring as real and honest feedback, if you are open to it, can come from anywhere. I have been mentored by at-risk youth under my care, or young ambitious employees who shared with me insights and un-filtered observations that helped me become more aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses.
  2. Arranged mentors have just the same chance of success of any I create. Maybe, maybe not. Corporate assigned mentors have one major drawback, if they do not work--very hard to change or stop without some political consequences. Because mentoring is so dependent on compatibility, chemistry, the establishment of common interests for success, often your mentor selections may be more effective and flexible. 
  3. My boss, my spouse, my best friend can be my best mentors. Again yes and no. Clearly under the right circumstances and your relationship, these can work. But sometimes distance creates more objectivity, more chance for the required reality checks of honest exchange. Mentoring is not unconditional encouragement or cheer leading for your team. In fact this is irritating at times. It is the relationship that offers the unmitigated reflection of what you do, not what you say.     
  4. Demographics are irrelevant, I can be mentored by anyone regardless of their profile. Absolutely true. However, you may need a special understanding that a woman, new immigrant, or culturally specific group member may be able to understand. But never limit your mentoring to these categories.  
  5. Having more than one mentor takes too much time and will be distracting. As implied above, multiple mentors is always better than one. Just as you are many personas and possess many goals, you will need several mentors to help you achieve your goals. In fact, suggests Kathy Bram, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston University School of Management, putting all your mentor eggs in one basket can be a mistake. "I think people really ought to think in terms of multiple mentors instead of just one," concludes Kram, the author of Mentoring at Work.  And they don't all have to be grizzled business veterans. "Peers can be an excellent source of mentor-ship," she says.   
  6. A good mentoring relationship should last a year or so. Different from a mentoring program that has time limits, mentoring will last as long as it is valuable to both parties. It may be a couple of sessions, it may be for life. Having a pre-set time limit is foolish. In my work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, we routinely turned down mentors who came with set time limits. We knew that these people were not interested in building a relationship and helping a kid, they were most focused on a limited and selfish experience. Never did these potential mentors ever ask, how long would be best for the kid?!!!!!
  7. Can't I find a mentor online? As you know, you can find anything online. And there are sites offering mentoring services and matches. No eHarmony for mentors yet! Mentoring has to have a substantial face to face component. Certainly relationships and the ongoing give and take can happen online, but the foundation of the relationship starts in person.  
Before you go off and seek your mentors, consider these Pre-requisites: 
Pre-requisites:
  1. General goals or at the very least curiosities and interests. Something has to drive your ambition to be mentored. It can not be"I was hoping you could tell what I am supposed to do."
  2. Acceptance of your responsibilities as a mentee and being prepared to help the mentor
  3. Actively networking to clarify your goals and meeting more people, some of whom could be mentors 
Meeting people, interesting people in every facet of your life is the best strategy to find mentors. Your church, your alumni association, your professional trade group, your hobby club are all potent sources for mentors. You will meet and hear about people who seem to have a greater idea about your area of interest or your career path than you do. Connect with those who seem like mentor candidates and explore the process. Be introduced to other candidates by seeking referrals from your trusted colleagues and associates. "I am interested in (subject/ambition/organization), who do you think could help me understand it better?"

As someone who has been fortunate to be mentored by many and to have been given the privilege of mentoring others. It is a process that always yields more than I have invested. As a mentee as a mentor it is the most reward ing thing I have ever done. 

Make it a priority, find a new mentor that helps you answer a meaningful question and pushes you to become better. 

Thanks for reading. John

The networking race---drafting and slowing down

As the world's unprecedented economic implosion forces more people into involuntary career and soul searching exercises, networking becomes a new and popular strategy. Fear drives us to do things we would never consider. Knowing this human tendency, I developed this site to help people adopt a lifestyle of connecting and helping one another in all times good and bad. Yet, emergency networking becomes the strategy du jour.

I just got back from frozen Chicago where I spent the afternoon with a group of ambitious Pepsi employees who want to advance their careers and their lives through the mentoring and networking lifestyle. Pepsi invests in their employees and gives them many opportunities even through these challenging times. The aftermath of the layoffs of 3000 of their colleagues was already a distant memory and this group was re-focused on how to re-tool and push ahead. Fear was not present. We discussed a wide variety of topics, including how supervisors who are not aligned with your goals can be impediments to advancement. Talked about the importance of "drafting" off of a leader. You remember the way Michael Phelps and Jason Leizak swam just behind the lead swimmer and then slingshotted ahead to win. Or how Jimmie Johnson rides the bumper of the car ahead and passes on the turn. To me the single most important criterion for taking a position is the ability to draft--to be inspired and challenged by a supervisor who is interested in my advancement and development. 

Then our conversation turned to networking and we talked about the misplaced desire to do networking FAST. This speed dating mentality is deadly. Networking and mentoring are not effective if they are rushed or considered a quick task. Does not mean we can not be efficient in how we target and focus this process, but super sonic speed in networking is usually iatrogenic (cure is worse than the disease) in building relationships for mutual support and benefit! My favorite coach, John Wooden, preaches, "Be quick but don't hurry." And that is the best advice for basketball, networking and life. 

So as you might imagine, I am overwhelmed with networking requests of the supersonic kind. People I have not talked to in decades are looking me up because they need me NOW! Their tone and their process is hurried and panicky. I always try and help, but if we have not worked together on weaving the net, it just doesn't work as well. The slow eating movement has a lot to teach us about the dangers of speed. When we network we have to slow down, be present, and try and enjoy the process. Reconnecting with someone for help has to be a pleasure not a pressure. Be reflective, humble and even apologetic, especially if it has been a long time. Nothing wrong with reconnecting but consider the recipient of the contact and how you would feel. Maybe even a telephone call is better than a quick and dirty e-mail. And the cardinal sin of the speed demon is becoming a hit and run driver. The networker who connects, gets what he wanted, and never is heard from again. Were the referrals and assistance provided helpful? Did you get an interview or a job? Incredible to me when people are so selfish that they don't invest in their networks by closing close the loop by providing feedback. Or use the opportunity to report on the lack of success or the need for additional help. Hit and run networking drivers run over everyone in their path and especially their own reputations. 

References as your networking starting point

People who are looking for a job, also need to think about their references. Your best references--those that like you and you like them, people who can endorse you, your track record, your character, your general greatness,--these are major networking hubs. By the way, why are there any other types of references listed? Always curious why some people contact their references at the end of a job search-- makes no sense. Or worse, never contact their references to prep them for a call and hope that something good happens. In these models, your references are the last to know about your new job offer and you explain why you were in the market to begin with and that raises unnecessary questions about what happened. Or your references learn about your career path and changes from the potential employer. Yikes!

Take inventory of your references based upon your current search and evaluate their relevance and support of you. 

  • Who should you add or subtract?
  • What gaps are there? Gaps that an employer will question? What is your story about those gaps? 
  • Can a colleague, vendor, customer, Board member be added to replace or enhance a list? 
  • And finally what is the status of your relationship with these people?    

Then 

  1. Contact each one to network about your possibilities and affirm their agreement to be your reference
  2. Describe your goals and seek their assistance 
  3. Keep them informed on your progress 
  4. Prepare them for the call from the potential employer 
  5. Let them know what happened and thank them for their help regardless of the outcome
Do you know how many offers are withdrawn over bad references today? It is increasing because competition is fierce, every open position is precious and any doubt is a reason not to hire. Why take that chance? 

Veteran race car drivers will tell you slowing is essential to going fast. Slow down and try enjoy the process of reconnecting with your network. Start and end with your references and you can speed up your chances for success in the networking race. 

Merry Chritmas! Thanks for reading. John